The EU needs to stop showering Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic with economic and political support if it wants to reach its strategic goals in the Balkans.
The top strategic goal both for the EU and US in the Balkans at the moment is for Serbia to formally recognize Kosovo’s independence.
Brussels has always appeased Vucic, while Russia and China have grown their influence over Serbia. The EU strategy of appeasement has clearly failed. Vucic’s policy of nonalignment has worked too well for him but Brussels needs to put Vucic in a position that forces him to pick a side.
In an article on the Foreign Policy, Aleks Eror argues for a new Balkan strategy for the EU. He suggests that the union needs to step up its game to avoid being sidelined by the growing influence of Russia and Chinese in Serbia.
Speaking of the EU and US approaches toward the Kosovo-Serbia issues, he argues that the prevailing view in Brussels is that a solution should be found by giving Serbia incentives to accept the status quo and willingly relinquish its claim to Kosovo. Belgrade has repeatedly rejected this approach.
The Trump administration has shown to be more flexible about a possible solution by suggesting that it could even include border adjustments. The EU strongly opposes this option.
The lack of cooperation between the EU and US, and the EU’s retreat from Balkan issues in the last years, has helped the growing influence of Russia and China in Serbia.
“If the EU wants to avoid being sidelined in its own backyard, it needs to take a more muscular approach to Balkan affairs by edging out its rivals and coercing regional leaders—particularly Vucic—into compliance with its aims.”
The author suggests that a good start would be for the EU to stop its economic and political support for Vucic and redirect it towards civil society groups, in order to improve democracy and rule of law in the country.